Volume 10, 2018
Varieties of Determinism: Spinozist Meditations
The paper distinguishes between two varieties of determinism: a strong one and a weak one. Weak determinism asserts that whatever happens is caused and that cause necessitates the effect; strong determinism is not satisfied with this assertion, but goes further stating that whatever happens can be traced to just one universal cause. If we define freedom as a capacity to start a new causal chain, strong determinism would allow only one properly free agent; it is thus indistinguishable from fatalism. Weak de-terminism, allowing a plurality of free agents, preserves whatever we need to account for our possession of scientific knowledge (the notion of necessity), but evades fatalism with its characteristic identification of determination and predestination. The discourse on freedom and necessity is often presented as controversy between compatibilism and incompatibilism. The above argument would normally fall under the former category; I prefer, however, an incompatibislm, albeit of a different kind, viz. that free will is incompatible with indeterminism. For free will, if it is seen as real ability, is not mere intention to do something on one’s own; it is only feasible in a deterministic world.